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Downey & Houghtaling Bill to Connect Those Who Served to Programs, Benefits for Veterans Advanced by Committee

13-Member Commission on Veterans’ Benefits Would Help Support Veterans & Their Families

Legislation Assembly Democrats Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling sponsored to help connect veterans in New Jersey with the programs and benefits for which they are eligible was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.

The bill (A-4171) would establish the New Jersey Commission on Veterans’ Benefits in the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The 13-member commission would develop, maintain and annually update a five-year statewide veterans’ benefits strategic plan that includes goals and measurable outcomes to ensure that all state departments and agencies are effectively delivering comprehensive services and support for veterans and their families.

“Many veterans are aware of how they can benefit from resources the federal government offers, but they’re sometimes uncertain about what they and their families may qualify for at the state level,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “A commission dedicated to making sure veterans have access to the programs and benefits they’re eligible for and deserve will help New Jersey honor its obligation to those who have served this nation.”

In developing and updating the strategic plan, the commission would identify and evaluate the various programs and benefits the state offers to veterans. Analysis shall be based on factors such as: the ability to improve veterans’ educational, job skills, employment, and business opportunities; physical and behavioral health and long-term health care options; criminal justice issues; and housing opportunities and homelessness.

Recommendations generated from the analysis would be submitted to the governor and the legislature to address any deficiencies in the provision of benefits and services to veterans.

“New Jersey always should be looking for ways to improve outreach to veterans and make sure they can take advantage of resources that are reserved specifically for them,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “With a combination of government officials and veterans working together on behalf of those who served, our state can maximize its ability to take care of veterans and their families.”

The commission would consist of the following 13 members: the adjutant general of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; the secretary of state; the attorney general; the commissioners of the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health, the Department of Community Affairs, Department of Education, Department of Labor and Workforce Development; and five public members who are veterans, all of whom must be New Jersey residents and two of whom must be women. Of the five public members, who would serve for three-year terms, one would be appointed by the governor and one each would be appointed by the Senate president, the Senate minority leader, the Assembly speaker and the Assembly minority leader. Members of the commission would serve without compensation.

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.